LOWVILLE — From benches, bike racks and artsy educational murals to artistic landscaping elements, Lewis County villages got a little prettier and user friendly this summer.
With a mixture of budgeted money, community support and grant funding, village governments around the county took a step beyond business as usual.
Down through the center of Copenhagen on either side of Route 12, called Main Street, large planter pots with elaborate, almost architectural, brightly colored flower arrangements appeared as if by magic early in the summer.
But magic, it was not. It took a village to get them there.
The Copenhagen Village Board of Trustees had been putting aside $6,000 in the budget for several years for improvement projects that did not get used until this year.
“The planters were something the village did in conjunction with a community group,” said Trustee Kimberly R. Vogt, who spearheaded the effort. “It ended up costing us just under $4,000 for 10 planters and seven hanging baskets. They are produced locally, in Auburn. ... the (self-watering) Earth Planter brand.”
One community member drove to Auburn to pick up the planters. The group that organizes the village’s Christmas decorations purchased the flowering greenery that the local 4-H club arranged and planted in the vessels.
Shari L. Simmons, owner of Simmons Christmas Tree Farm who lives and has her business just outside of the village limits, went with the committee leader to buy a variety of flowering and non-flowering plants for the project from a number of greenhouses in Syracuse.
Although most of the plants purchased were annuals rather than perennials, two local businesses, Hopenhagen Farm and The Davenport, have each donated $500 for next year’s projects, Mrs. Vogt said.
Lowville also invested budget money in some beautification efforts this year.
Landscaping was done to the formerly weeded area in the “Y” intersection of Routes 12 and 26 at the south end of the village, including cementing over part of it and adding flowering planters and a new tree in the middle that is expected to bloom in the spring and fall, according to Mayor Joseph G. Beagle.
At the “clock tower” park at the main four corners intersection in the village where North and South State streets meet Dayan Street and Shady Avenue, the village added some decorative informational signs about the history of the park and surrounding buildings.
Last year, at the other end of the village, the Lowville board began a project to remove, clean, repair and replace the fountain on the north end where West State Street meets North State Street.
Returning the fountain’s component parts to their original location was slated for completion in the spring, but after a significant problem arose, Mr. Beagle said they hope to complete the effort within the next few weeks.
“The base and everything had been put in properly and the (cast iron) fountain had been sand blasted and re-painted but when it was going back up, for some unknown reason, it fell over and broke,” Mr. Beagle said. “So we looked into seeing what it would take to restore it ... but it was actually cheaper to replace it.”
While the tiered design of the original fountain will be similar in the new granite fountain top, it won’t be an exact replica.
Mr. Beagle added that the fountain has also been improved with the addition of LED lights that “will shine through the water at night” and new benches situated around the fountain.
The village work crew is in the process of replacing the walkway into Veterans Park in the center of the village.
“It was so overgrown only one person could walk down the path at a time,” Mr. Beagle said.
The new path will be wide and made of brown stamped concrete to look nicer with the surrounding environment, according to the mayor, and new shrubbery will be planted along the path next week.
A Port Leyden project was completed and unveiled in a June ceremony. The project started in 2019 with a grant application by Lydia Johnson Huntress, Lyons Falls resident, artist and children’s book author, followed by grant approval and design concepts in 2020.
The $2,500 St. Lawrence County Arts Council Public Art Fellowship grant funded Ms. Huntress’ mural panels depicting local plants and animals in all four seasons in her unique and colorful style.
The murals, designed to be fun and decorative while at the same time a source of learning for Port Leyden children, were mounted on the exterior walls of the community center at the Community Park.
Port Leyden, Castorland, Croghan, Copenhagen and Lyons Falls participated in grant opportunities based on the Complete Streets program introduced to the area by Mark Fenton Sponsored by the Tug Hill Commission, the program’s workshops have explored ways to make village streets and spaces more friendly and inviting.
“There’s been various funding opportunities over the past two years. The grants have been various sizes with different allowable expenses,” said Anna Platz, deputy director of Lewis County Public Health, “There’s a huge push, especially in the COVID era, to make communities safer and more moveable — not even just walkable — but moveable, for people of all ages and abilities. I’m really excited that we have communities hopping on board and taking advantage of these opportunities. It’s wonderful.”
Copenhagen and Lyons Falls benefitted from a Complete Streets grant program initiated by the commission in 2019, through which they were able to get benches, bike racks and picnic tables made by students at the Glenfield BOCES.
While some of the items were received and placed, including Lyons Falls’ benches and, this summer, Copenhagen’s four bike racks, the production of the benches, picnic tables and an information kiosk for Copenhagen have been delayed by the pandemic, Mrs. Vogt said.
Granting streams for similar items were offered this year through a collaboration between the county planning and public health departments.
“The village and our residents completed a walkability study and the result was unanimous, to freshen up or highlight the river front area,” Port Leyden Mayor Heather M. Collins said.
Port Leyden’s crew was able to put in various signs pointing to both vehicle and bicycle parking, purchase new trash receptacles and repair a section of sidewalk. The crew also enhanced a green area near the Black River on East Main Street by staining and sealing an unfinished picnic table placed there years ago, adding a wood and metal bench facing the river and creating a mum garden.
Ms. Platz said Port Leyden also ordered a pet waste disposal system for the village.
“It covered a lot. It was just a $5,000 grant and we added what we wanted to add as well. We ended up doing the whole project at a low cost to the village,” Ms. Collins said. “These things are what I wanted to do for many years and it’s been wonderful to have the opportunity to do so.”
Croghan and Castorland participated in walk audits for this grant stream and “chose what satisfied the needs of their residents” out of the suggested improvements, Ms. Platz said.
In Castorland, multiple benches and signs directing people to their community park were purchased with the grant money, while in Croghan, picnic tables and benches were placed around the village.
Going forward, Lowville village leaders still have potential funding in the works and a number of ideas, including a walking path around Veterans Park; a flat concrete pad near the bandstand connecting to the new walkway; and a lighted corridor leading from the village’s main parking area to Shady Avenue near the movie theater.
Copenhagen will continue working on a walking trail that goes around the village and use planters to find ways to “calm traffic.”
“The goal is to try to get people moving and engaged and help our businesses,” Mrs. Vogt said. “It’s all about making this a fun place to be and a safe place to be.”
A new grant funding initiative led by the county planning department, the Facade and Streetscape Improvement Program, is accepting applications from property and business owners who want to “revitalize the historic character and attractiveness of villages and hamlets in Lewis County through public and private investment.” The program is also designed for municipal government projects that “improve walkability and/or community aesthetics in a village or hamlet.” Applications are due Nov. 1.
For Lowville, which submitted its application for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative earlier this month, future ideas for village improvements and funding hopes are big.